The effort to impeach President Donald Trump is already underway.
At the moment the new commander in chief was sworn in, a campaign to build public support for his impeachment went live at ImpeachDonaldTrumpNow.org, spearheaded by two liberal advocacy groups aiming to lay the groundwork for his eventual ejection from the White House.
The organizers behind the campaign, Free Speech for People and RootsAction, are hinging their case on Trump’s insistence on maintaining ownership of his luxury hotel and golf course business while in office. Ethics experts have warned that his financial holdings could potentially lead to constitutional violations and undermine public faith in his decision-making.
Their effort is early, strategists admit. But they insist it is not premature, even if it triggers an angry backlash from those who will argue that they are not giving the new president a chance.
‘‘If we were to wait for all the ill effects that could come from this, too much damage to our democracy would occur,’’ said Ron Fein, legal director at Free Speech for People. ‘‘It will undermine faith in basic institutions.’’
The impeachment drive comes as Democrats and liberal activists are mounting broad opposition to stymie Trump’s agenda. Among the groups organizing challenges to the Trump administration is the American Civil Liberties Union, which plans to wield public-records requests and lawsuits as part of an aggressive action plan aimed at protecting immigrants and pushing for government transparency, among other issues.
‘‘We think that President Trump will be in violation of the Constitution and federal statutes on day one, and we plan a vigorous offense to ensure the worst of the constitutional violations do not occur,’’ said Anthony D. Romero, the ACLU’s executive director.
‘‘We may have a new president, but we have the same old system of checks and balances,’’ he added.
Strategists behind the campaign for impeachment said they are confident that other groups will soon join their cause. They argue that Trump will immediately be in violation of the US Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause, which prohibits a president from accepting a gift or benefit from a foreign leader or government.
Fein cited several examples, including rent paid by the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China for its space in Trump Tower in New York and potential ongoing spending by foreign diplomats at the Trump International Hotel in Washington and other Trump properties. In addition, he said, royalties collected by the Trump organization from the president’s business partner in the Philippines, who was recently named a special envoy to the United States, could violate the clause.
Trump said this month that he would donate ‘‘profits’’ from foreign business clients to the US Treasury. However, neither Trump nor representatives of the Trump Organization have provided details on how such payments would be tracked, collected, and disbursed.
The foreign emoluments clause has never been tested in the courts, and some scholars argue that violating it would not qualify as ‘‘treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,’’ the grounds for impeachment of a federal official.
But Fein noted that former Virginia governor Edmund Jennings Randolph, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and later the first US attorney general, argued during Virginia’s debate over ratifying the Constitution that a president who was found to have taken a foreign emolument ‘‘may be impeached.’’
His group has mapped out a long-shot political strategy to build support for a vote in the House on articles of impeachment.
The first step is fairly simple: getting a resolution introduced that calls for the House Judiciary Committee to investigate whether there are grounds to impeach Trump, a move that Fein said a number of members of Congress are interested in taking.
‘‘Getting it introduced is not going to be a problem,’’ he said.